Ahead of a parliamentary election scheduled for 2015, IWPR has launched the second stage of its project encouraging young Afghan voters to take part and make their voices heard.
Since August 2013, IWPR’s Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out initiative has been working with young people aged 18 to 28, particularly students, to inspire them to participate in elections. (See Making Votes Count in Afghanistan.)
Now in its second phase, the initiative, funded by the United States embassy in Kabul, encourages critical thinking and improves the communication skills of participants.
Twenty thousand young Afghans were engaged in the first phase, which covered ten provinces. They attended around 200 election-focused current affairs discussions and five inter-university forums.
“Our aim was to educate university students, both female and male, on electoral issues and encourage them – and through them, their families and community members – to take part in the elections held on April 5 and June 14,” IWPR Afghanistan country director Noorrahman Rahmani said.
In addition, ten radio debates were held and more than 100 students were given journalism training in the lead-up to the polls. These students then produced dozens of print and radio stories on the debates for IWPR’s website. (Afghan Youth and Elections.)
“Each student in a debate represented a family, so they were able to encourage family members, too, to take part in the elections,” Fayaz, a 22-year-old law and politics student at Paktia university in southeastern Afghanistan, said. “I was [initially] reluctant to participate in the elections. But after attending a few of the discussions, I changed my mind. I obtained a voting card and voted in the polls.”
With the second phase of the project, which began on August 1, IWPR is widening its focus to reach across the whole of Afghanistan, aiming to involve a further 15,000 young people (6,000 of them female) in election debates.
Some will also receive training in outreach and advocacy so that they can encourage others to use their votes.
Six project regions will cover the country’s 34 provinces, with each served by two teams led by debate moderators and specially-trained journalists. Since the second phase began, IWPR has trained 17 debate moderators from across Afghanistan and 24 print and radio journalists.
The debates will cover key political and electoral issues with the aim of dispelling popular misconceptions about the democratic process, raising awareness about extremist propaganda, and encouraging independent thinking.
Young Afghans will also be encouraged not only to vote but to also get involved as polling station workers or election observers.
For more information on IWPR’s work in Afghanistan, please contact our country director, Noorrahman Rahmani (firstname.lastname@example.org).